We each are given gifts through the Holy Spirit. These gifts are from God and are meant to be shared with others. They are not gifts given for personal development in a personal walk with Jesus. We are all part of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12). We all have a part to play. These gifts are given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). When it comes to giving gifts, there is only one way to give them: in love (1 Cor 13). There’s not much worse than for someone to show up to offer their help and do it with a bad attitude, from a position of superiority, or begrudged because they only want to offer their help in how they best see fit rather than offering their gifts for however they might be used. We let all kinds of things get in the way of offering our gifts for the common good. There are times when I know “the most excellent way” and it ends up not being the way of love. Let’s strive together to examine the gifts we have, offer them for the common good, and to bring them in love wrapped in grace and mercy.
Acts 2:42-47 depicts a beautiful picture of a community of believers receiving and offering in common relationship with one another. Each person in the community has something to offer for the common good of the community. This is how Family works. As we turn the pages of Acts, we see that this does not stay the reality for long. Prejudice seeps in. The Hellenistic widows were being overlooked by the Hebraic Jews in the distribution of food (Acts 6). The Apostles ask for seven men to be put forward to take on the role of servant leadership. They hold up the image of Acts 2:42-47 and look at their reality and work to reconcile it. The rest of the New Testament can more or less be laid out like this. When the church fails to be lived out as a faith community, the image of Acts 2:42-47 is held up and they work to bring it to reality. Another way of saying this is, develop the eyes of God to see what he desired his creation to be when he created it, and work to bring that reality into existence. This should never be about gaining power over one another but about bringing everyone together into harmony.
The early church was filled with people who had the eyes of God to see what needed to happen to set the world right all around them. They saw the needs of others and offered what they had. The church was filled with women and men who didn’t let social norms get in the way of showing love to all who needed to receive it. We focus a lot on the big names in the Bible: Peter, Paul, Mary… But the New Testament is filled with names who don’t have stories other than, “They were generous,” or “They are hard workers in the faith.” These sentiments are far from the consumeristic mindset that has beset the western church today where most people are looking for a church that best meets their needs.
Take some time to read the end of most of Paul’s letters. He often just lists off groups of people who send their greetings. Sit with these chapters and imagine what their stories must be like. We don’t have them but they were important to Paul and to the growth of the church. You’ll find names like Phoebe, a deacon in the church in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1-2), Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3; Acts 18; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19), Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, three women who work hard in the Lord (Rom. 16:12), and many more in other books.
The passage I want to focus on for Sunday is Acts 9:36-43. Read this story with Tabitha as the main focus while you read instead of Peter. Why was it important the she be raised from the dead? Don’t settle with your first answer to that question. Sit with the text for a bit and imagine who this Christian Sister of ours was to her community.
What do you have to offer for the common good of our community?